Town nixes credit idea for trans­former boxes

Palm Beach Daily News - - TODAY - By WIL­LIAM KELLY

The town has dis­carded the idea of dis­count­ing prop­erty as­sess­ments when­ever elec­tri­cal trans­former boxes are placed on pri­vate prop­er­ties as part of a town­wide con­ver­sion to un­der­ground util­i­ties.

Most prop­erty own­ers won’t have the metal trans­former boxes on their prop­er­ties. Coun­cil­woman Julie Araskog sug­gested the dis­count be­cause of the neg­a­tive aes­thetic im­pact to own­ers who will have them.

But the other coun­cil mem­bers were op­posed after Town Man­ager Tom Brad­ford said adding a credit for the boxes into the as­sess­ment formula would be a time-con­sum­ing and costly process, and that the amount of the credit would likely be a few dol­lars a year for each af­fected prop­erty owner.

Prop­erty own­ers will be as­sessed over 30 years to re­pay bonds to fi­nance the project, and each owner’s as­sess­ment is based on a formula that ac­counts for the safety, re­li­a­bil­ity and aes­thetic ben­e­fits of re­plac­ing the over­head util­i­ties with an un­der­ground sys­tem.

If the coun­cil had ap­proved the credit, then prop­erty own­ers who didn’t have boxes would have faced a lit­tle more on their as­sess­ments to make up the dif­fer­ence, Brad­ford said.

Pur­su­ing FPL dis­counts

The coun­cil told Brad­ford last week to work with the town’s util­i­ties at­tor­ney, Robert “Schef” Wright, to pur­sue up to $6 mil­lion in dis­counts, agreed to by Florida Power & Light Co., to­ward the cost of bury­ing all power lines on the is­land.

The dis­counts would be in ad­di­tion to the 25 per­cent dis­count FPL pro­vides to­ward the amount mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties pay the com­pany for the equip­ment that makes up a new un­der­ground power sys­tem. That dis­count is re­quired by the Florida Public Ser­vice Com­mis­sion be­cause un­der­ground sys­tems are less costly to main­tain than over­head sys­tems, Brad­ford said.

The ad­di­tional cred­its are tied to sav­ings FPL would re­al­ize by not hav­ing to in­stall storm-hard­ened poles and wires along main power “feeder” lines in town if the town builds an un­der­ground sys­tem. FPL has said it thinks Public Ser­vice Com­mis­sion ap­proval would be needed be­fore it can pro­vide the cred­its; Brad­ford said the town thinks it is un­nec­es­sary.

The coun­cil told Brad­ford to continue to seek ad­di­tional sav­ings that FPL has so far not agreed to, and to pur­sue the cred­its it has agreed to.

‘Yes’ to new wire­less reg­u­la­tions

The coun­cil agreed to hire Boca Ra­ton at­tor­ney Gary Res­nick, for $300 an hour, to draft reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing the place­ment of wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment on public prop­erty or within public rights of way. Res­nick is rec­og­nized as an ex­pert in the field and has been re­tained through the town’s le­gal firm, Jones Fos­ter John­ston & Stubbs, Town At­tor­ney John Ran­dolph said.

In April, the coun­cil de­clared a 180-day mora­to­rium on ap­pli­ca­tions to place wire­less equip­ment on public prop­erty and in public rights-ofway un­til it could draft and pass an or­di­nance to properly reg­u­late it. The ban was en­acted in the face of pro­posed state leg­is­la­tion se­verely lim­it­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ments’ abil­ity to pre­vent or reg­u­late the place­ment of 5G wire­less equip­ment. The town, how­ever, is among some coastal com­mu­ni­ties who were given an ex­emp­tion from the law, which passed the leg­is­la­ture and awaits Gov. Rick Scott’s sig­na­ture.

Brad­ford and Town Coun­cil­woman Bob­bie Lind­say said the un­der­ground­ing project presents an op­por­tu­nity to lay ad­di­tional con­duit to take ad­van­tage of fu­ture com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing 5G wire­less, re­mote con­trol of mu­nic­i­pal op­er­a­tions and self-driv­ing cars, while also min­i­miz­ing above­ground fa­cil­i­ties.

The con­duit also could be a mon­ey­maker for the town, which could lease it for use by com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies, Brad­ford and Town Coun­cil­woman Julie Araskog said.

The ad­di­tional con­duit was orig­i­nally in the un­der­ground­ing plan, but was re­moved to cut costs. Brad­ford said that was a mis­take, and that he will de­ter­mine the cost of adding it back in — ei­ther as a “back­bone” sys­tem along main roads, or ex­tend­ing it into neigh­bor­hoods.

If we don’t put this back in, it’s penny-wise and pound-fool­ish,” Lind­say said.

In other ac­tion, the coun­cil chose Nicki McDon­ald to fill the Un­der­ground Util­i­ties Task Force seat va­cated by Wil­bur Ross, who left in De­cem­ber to be­come Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s com­merce sec­re­tary. McDon­ald is pres­i­dent of the board of the Lake Tow­ers con­do­minium build­ing, which buried its util­ity lines last year. She has a busi­ness back­ground.

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